Defintion: a business term relating to an over inundation of amount of work, or emotional energy exerted to sustain a schedule or situation. In other words, I am feeling a bit left of center lately.… More
There is a word in the German language that, until recently, I couldn’t quite define. More of a multifaceted feeling than a tangible element, Ausstrahlung can be defined quite beautifully and accurately by Roald Dahl’s astute definition.
This is both my favorite word as well as my favorite feeling. It is the “qua”, the something, that is undefinable yet unmistakable. It is the light, the radiance, that shines out from within. And that, my friends, is true beauty.
It is a really strange thing. Dating, I mean. Not strange as a practice, I suppose. Everybody has to do something like it: it is a means for an end. Or is it an end for means?
Either way, I am at it again. Just when I thought I couldn’t be more disenchanted with online dating, and began only passively checking the app every once in awhile, there he was. Not only did he like my photo, but he also started up a conversation (shocking, truly). And it was a very good conversation. And we all know how these things progress from here: we chat a few days via the app, we exchange numbers, vet each other a bit, realize it is real enough, and then decide to meet. Online dating 101.
Upon meeting, though it wasn’t an instant connection, I thought there would be enough there to leave room for some potential. So, I stayed after lunch. I am happy I did. It was great way to spend a Sunday. Most definitely a fantastic use of my time. I am glad I met him. And we continued to talk extremely often. Not just texting; video chats and phone conversations as well. He gets that part of me, and ticks the same way as far as wanting to share and be in contact. From this, I realized that this aspect of connecting with someone is super important to me. This is the standard I am looking for. That’s not everybody’s cup of tea, obviously, but it certainly is mine. Before, I thought I could handle less communication. Now I know that this is what I find satisfying.
What is more is the quality of the communication; he is comfortable expressing his thoughts and saying sweet, touching things to me. I know he appreciates me in many ways. And I like that doesn’t assume that I know these things. So, now I also realize just how important this is to me as well. Two things that I suspected about myself, but have now been confirmed. Alone for this reason, this chance meeting has been very productive. I like what I’ve been able to learn about him and about me from our involvement with each other. The facts seem illusive, but sometimes can be very clear if we give ourselves the chance to learn them.
And so it goes on.
He is not my person. I like him, I am sure I could even love him, if I allowed myself to stick around long enough. But why would I do that? Because, if I don’t, I am afraid. Scared to be lonely? Maybe. Afraid of hurting him? Also. Mostly, it is the thought that this is it: I am destined to a love life of meeting, liking, realizing, letting go. Repeat. Or, of rejection. That this is all there really is. Because, let’s face it: there are a million awesome, interesting, fun, intelligent people out there, and they are all single. They haven’t found their person/people, so what is to say that I will find mine? That is why it is tempting to hold on to something that is not meant to be mine. He could suit me for a time, most certainly. He does suit me. We have a good, easy time together, and he makes me feel comfortable and appreciated. Good things, all of them. I can see, though, —or feel, rather— that there are some things between us that I wont find flattering in the long term. Nothing catastrophic, or obvious flaws in character, and nothing that would bring physical or emotional harm to me in any way. But there are things, little things. There is something about those little things, though; they are extremely important, somehow, and it is as salient that they line up as it is when comparing how big things line up.
I know myself well enough, these days, to hear what my body is saying to me. Shifts in energy, the way I react to situations, the nuance of the mechanism that I am. My body is comfortable next to his; it is not alive, it is not furthered, it is not set afire, there is no hum. It is positive, it is enjoyable, it is comfortable. And that is all there is. What’s missing is the all encompassing connection, the je ne sais qua, the strong hum, the pull, the desire, the slight discomfort caused by the kindling of both body and soul. It is to be found. And certainly there is more than one person in the universe whose energy will align with mine in this way. But the universe hasn’t given that person to me just yet. Maybe it will, and maybe it wont.
For now, though, I will hold on loosely to the things that are only meant to be for a short time. Hopefully, that will make it easier for me to let them go when the time is right. This is by no means easy for me. Not at all. On the contrary; I will struggle to do what is right for the next bit of time. But, as I have said before, when I am ready to wake up, I always do. And I know he is bringing to light much knowledge that will no doubt help me along my path. But I will have to let him go at some point. When our purpose has been fulfilled, and we have done all we can for each other, it will be time. At that time, the universe will shift once again, and our energies, and whatever connection there may have been between them, will gravitate away from one another. There will be healing, there will be growth. There will be fond memories, and gratitude. There will be a future of uncertainly founded on a past of discovery. And the knowledge gained will help us both to go forth and be brave on the next part of our journeys.
One of the most incredible things about the journey of life is how often it takes you full circle.
I mean, we’ve all been there: running into the past in some form is not highly uncommon. On the contrary. It happens pretty damn often.
Well, today was one such occasion. I’ll say I ‘ran’ into the chap that I was dating a few months back, but really, it was no surprise. We had been in touch; I knew he was going to be where I was going to be; and, though this would be the first time we saw each other since our mutual break-up, I knew that we are both secure enough in ourselves to make, at the very least, cordial conversation.
There’s a twist in the story, though. It wasn’t like I was visiting our old stomping grounds while out with some friends. No. Rather, I was going to be with my son; the very same little human that was never introduced during our dating relationship. After everything was said and done, he was finally going to meet my son. “Huh,” I thought to myself, “Fancy that.” Ironic? Maybe a little. And I had no idea what to expect.
Arguably, the best part of life is the surprises it presents you with. My confrontation with the recent past was better than I could have ever anticipated. It was comfortable, familiar, and not one bit awkward. In fact, I even remember thinking that he looked really good. Why shouldn’t he? He’s still the same person, in many ways, that I was attracted to when it all first began. The coolest part, though, is that he is the first man of my past with which I feel comfortable sustaining contact or a friendship. While we were talking, I realized that, when I told him I was happy for him, I legitimately was. And when he mentioned that we should catch up over food, I was actually ready and willing. Not because I was looking for something that may or may not still be there. Not at all. We know we aren’t it. But, he’s still someone that brings a certain element of joy to our interactions, and why not invest in people who have that ability?
The same goes for a girl friend I knew in high school. We lost touch thereafter, and during a dark part of my life, I wrote her off and figured I would never hear from her again. But, during a time of transition, I wagered my odds and reached out to her. My God, am I glad that I did! Not only did I find out we were in similar situations at the time, but I also realized that she was both the same awesome girl I had known as well as being someone older and wiser and a hell of a lot of fun. Without taking the risk and seeing her, though, I would’ve never known that. Now, here we are going on a girls weekend tomorrow. And I couldn’t be more grateful to have her friendship.
So, I dunno, chaps. Sometimes the past should stay the hell where it is. And sometimes it should come around for another round of hellos. I never know who has what to offer until I confront the person, I guess. But I do believe that taking the chance is worth it every time. At least I will know what is on offer, one way or the other. And, more often than not, I am moved by the power of fate, destiny if you will, bringing people back as permanent, or even temporary, fixtures in my life. The fact is that every person I meet is very much a part of getting me where I am going. And these meetings, my dears, are an incredibly powerful happening, indeed.
It began when I stopped answering his messages, stopped calling him back when I saw he had phoned. It wasn’t that he didn’t bring color to my life in a way that I certainly enjoyed and maybe even needed; it wasn’t that at all. In fact, for the longest time, I didn’t know what it was. I was joyful to see him, and I missed him when I was away. Actually, there was not a negative thing to name in our relationship. It was a beautiful, gracious, and jovial connection; and it was more than love really. It was likely once in a lifetime. And I knew if it ever ended, it would destroy everything I had. It would shatter me. I would be nothing. And right now, I was everything. While the stone in me continued to roll along, and I went about my writing just as I always had, sometimes he accompanied me, others not. He had his own work, after all, and he was bloody brilliant in it and for it.
I came to the conclusion that, as heartbreaking as it would be, I would need to walk away on my own terms; tell him goodbye before anything had the chance to start slowly dismantling, decaying, turning to rubbish before my eyes. I just wouldn’t be able to stand it, should it come to that.
At this point, I had given him another year of my life. A year, for me, was a partial eternity. Finally, to reach a point of clarity, I booked myself a trip to Athens, and had cried myself swollen among the ruins. I sat in a place where no bumbling tourist would ever stumble into the mess that I was, but from where I sat, I had the most heartbreaking view of what I thought could become of my life if I kept things as they were: ruins of a civilization that had once been the most functional and mighty in the world.
After hours of sobbing, sniffling, and overall abuse and soul-scourging, I had emptied myself of all water within my body, and had replenished myself with ouzo and various other strong local drinks. I therefore spent many hours within the peace of a black-out, lived off of ibuprofen, and flew back to Berlin several days later.
Three worse for the gin, which I had drunk at a bar close to our place, I clambered into the apartment and had practically fallen into Marius like a boulder plowing its way down a steep slope.
“I’m sorry,” I had said. “I’m just so fucking sorry.”
I looked into his eyes, hoping he would grasp my meaning. He just smiled and kissed my forehead, complementing me on my deepened skin tone and remarking how glad he was to have me home.
“Marius.” I was shaking my head.
There was an unnatural rushing in my ears.
He stopped. The world stopped. My heart stopped.
And I don’t think it began again until I had closed the door behind me one final time, hailed a cab from the main street behind the apartment, and boarded the plane to London. Then it began again, excrutiatingly slowly, but there it was.
To sever the connection of two souls is more than science can ever explain. Its more than open-heart surgery, more than pulling the plug on a life-support machine, and more than having your worst nightmare realized. It feels like all of that, but is really so much more. The finality of the good-bye is a razor sharp blazing knife ripping through the flesh. Its the stolen breath that refuses to return for what seems like hours. Its the rain that drowns you when the tears refuse to come. Its the emptiness that will never be filled.
It is all that I am.
He cried before my eyes, asking me why, demanding answers that my thick and slow tongue couldn’t produce. “You’re not even giving it a chance Mira,” he had repeated over and over again. “I just don’t understand. We’re so much more than you’re letting us be.” He was right of course. How could I ever tell him that though? How could I tell him that I would rather sacrifice a part of my soul then risk its utter destruction? In a thousand and one ways, I was a coward.
A bloody fucking coward.
He became angry and stood up, wiping his face and nose. “That’s why you haven’t been, I don’t know, writing me when you’re away, or calling me. That’s why you’ve been absent. You were planning this; you just hadn’t found it pertinent to let me in on it.”
I said nothing. In a way, he was right again.
“You’ve been it Mira. For the last long bit of time in my life, it was you. Even when I didn’t even fucking realize it. I’ve been wanting nothing more for so many years. And there you were one day. And now, you can’t fucking risk it anymore?” He was shaking his head and covering his face with his hands.
“Holy Christ,” he whispered. He was breathing audibly, looking out through the wall of windows where, outside, the sunshine mocked me.
An ambulance rolled by on the main street. The door downstairs slammed shut. Dust fell and was heard by no one.
A strange parallel sense of calm settled over the room as he turned back to face me. “I won’t try to change your mind. That would not be right. And frankly, I never want to have to convince you to be with me. Your choice is your own, and I want no part in it.” He paused for what seemed like hours. “I just wish I could understand. I’d give anything to have a glimpse into that mind of yours. You kill me Mira. Truly, you kill me.”
Leaving the truth of his words to hang in the air and finally reach me, he went into the kitchen. He came back with a generous glass of clear liquid, a solitary ice cube bobbing on the surface. “It will be my curse to love you for the rest of my natural life. But someday, I will find peace from it.” He paused. “I think,” he paused again and looked into his glass, “I think I can handle your honesty, and I’ll be a better person for it. Somehow. Someday. But, God and Jesus in Heaven, this hurts. It fucking kills.” He shook his head once, and sighed. Then, very gently, he set the glass onto the counter and took deliberate steps towards me until we were an intimate distance apart. He was looking at the floor. “I’ll miss you. And your perfect friendship. And I’ll only ever want happiness for you.” He leaned in and kissed my cheek so very gently. I think I could’ve died on the spot, if it wasn’t for my unnatural willpower to stay on my feet. Then, he laid his hand gently on my cheek and smiled smally, blue eyes melting into mine.
By the time I came to myself, the glass had disappeared from the counter, there was a small ‘click’ from somewhere behind me, and he was gone. Forever and a day, he was gone.
As is known in psychology when one is in shock, I went through the next few hours in a mechanical state, packing my things, addressing boxes, and loading my suitcases. My mind told me I was leaving a hotel after a trip had come to an end.
What a metaphor; this trip spanning over a decade was now over. What would come of my life now that this chapter had ended, this presence had left me? I zipped the bag shut. I helped myself to a glass of vodka and was still drinking industriously when the shipping service had come to collect my things. I practically had to close one eye to see the line for my signature on the receipt.
It took me days to recover, weeks really. I had known that he would likely never in this lifetime want another thing to do with me after all of this, but I hadn’t been able to calculate the damage that it would inflict upon me after it had come to pass. I was having a monster of a time coping. And that’s an understatement.
“I’ve been in London for three weeks, Mum. I’ve been….out. With people I haven’t seen in years, drinking, dancing, smoking. Trying to forget my fucking miserable life for a just one moment. I’ve been staying with friends, couch surfing, getting a hotel room, whatever I can to avoid being alone in my flat. I can’t do it; I can’t face it yet. I’ve completely obliterated my sense of peace. And I’ve lost someone who was worth more than his weight in gold to me. I highly doubt I will find anyone who understands me like he does. Did. Oh God.” She put her head in her hands. I thought she might cry, but instead, she looked up at me with zombie eyes. “I look like walking hell because I haven’t slept in weeks. I haven’t written anything at all. I tried yesterday, and it was absolutely the most miserable writing anyone could have ever produced. Like in the history of writing, though.” She swallowed and shook her head. “I don’t even feel like a person anymore. I feel—“ She breathed out her nose. “I feel horrible. I feel like I betrayed him. I did betray him. I treated him in a way that he never ever deserved. He was always honest with me; always kind, always an ear for me to speak into. I was such an arse.”
She was so full of her own misery, I didn’t feel compelled to inject any more.
“I mean, I think I’ll come back from it. God, I can only hope. But I know for a fact that there will come many a day where I’ll want to speak with him, to share with him like we always did. I’ll want to see his smile, and never will be able to.”
There was the shimmer of tears in her eyes now.
“He was so clear about his wish for things. He gave me his final goodbye. And he’ll move on. I know he will. He’s such a brilliant human being. My favorite person to ever exist.”
The tears fell now, landing thick and heavy against the light color of her jeans.
“God, he will move on, and he’ll find peace. I hope I am able to do the same.” She looked down, and the tears fell freely. I reached out a hand and clasped hers.
“Mira, you’re a writer. And a brilliant one at that. If nothing else, at some point you’ll find catharsis through that.”
And, against my nature, I stood up, straightened my trousers, and walked to the cabinet. Pulling out the bottle of bourbon and two glasses, I settled back in to have a drink with my daughter; my complicated, beautiful, sometimes idiotic and entirely nonsensical, artistic free-spirit of a daughter.
“Do you happen to have anything a bit stronger Mum?” She made a face at the cup of tea I had placed before her.
“Darling, it’s barely the afternoon. My tea is very strong. Drink it. You’ll feel much better,” I replied, settling into the chair across from hers.
She was staring out the window, watching the rain fall. The lamps were lit, though the grey of the day did its best to snuff out the glow of the bulbs.
“So, why are you here?” I asked, sipping my tea tentatively.
She just looked at me, blinking.
She rolled her eyes. “I dunno, Mum. Cause I’m back in London, and I thought you’d like a chat,” she finally replied a bit saltily.
“I’m aware that you’re back in London. I signed for the packages that arrived at your flat. I do believe I asked you why, and not if you’re here.” I leaned back in my chair and crossed my ankles.
She was flustered, appearing to me as if she would cry at any moment. And she said nothing.
“I don’t understand you Mira,” I said finally.
She squeezed her eyes shut and breathed out. “Mum, I don’t mean to rude, but I may need to go out for a pack of fags if you don’t stop grilling me.”
“That would be a poor life choice, darling,” I remarked, raising an eyebrow.
She shook her head and looked away.
I leaned forward. “You said you’re here for a chat.”
Her head snapped back toward me and she was glaring. “I did say that. A chat—not a bloody browbeating.”
“My dear, I just don’t understand what in Heaven or on Earth would have moved you to leave Berlin. You gave no notice that there was trouble with Marius. In fact, you gave no notice at all that you were coming to London. I spoke with you on the phone not more than five days ago. Forgive me, but I’m absolutely confused by your presence here.”
She sighed and reached for her cup of tea. “I know you have whiskey in the cabinet,” she muttered.
“If that will help you, then by all means.” I gestured to the sideboard where the liquor was stored. Immeadiatly, she sprang to her feet and began to rummage, bottles clinking together as she searched for her poison of choice. Uncorking the bottle of bourbon, she dumped a heavy tot into her cup, the contents sloshing over the sides and down onto the saucer. I breathed deeply and said nothing.
“I’m still going for fags later,” she said after she had re-stowed the bottle and taken her place on the chair again. “That’s much better,” she added, taking an unladylike slurp of her concoction.
“Oh for Christ’s sake Mira,” I said, a bit incredulous at this point. “Pull yourself together and come off it.” I was already tired of the nonsense. “I take it you’ve made a monstrous mistake.” It was speculation, but I was nearly completely certain it was the truth— even if she wasn’t.
“You don’t know that,” she replied quietly.
“Quite right I do. You love Marius. You’ve reconnected after all these years. You were meant to. And yet, here you sit, swigging spiked tea and banging on about having a smoke.” I lifted a shoulder, daring her to contradict me.
She didn’t. She stayed quiet, as did I, and we drank our tea.
“I couldn’t take the chance on him, Mum. Not again,” she finally said.
“Now what, should I suppose, is that meant to mean?” I asked.
She leaned forward. “Look, if I tell you everything, will you reserve your judgement til I’ve had about six more of these?” she asked impatiently.
“I’d appreciate the honesty, yes.”
And so it began.
It is perpetually remarkable to me how the passage of time knows no slowness; yesterday, there was snow on the ground, and many of us were wishing for a new beginning and a better year in 2017. Today, it is summertime in the Windy City, and half of 2017 has run its course. And I sit here and think, “Well, that went fast.”
In another life, perhaps, I would be on the tail-end of my Euro-Excursion; the three week trip I planned last December that would’ve started me in Berlin to visit good friends, seen me through a solo trip to Scotland, and ended in Greece, basking or burning on the shores of the Aegean in the company of a dear friend. Thanks to my new job, the trip was not one I could take, but I can’t find any remorse because I am incredibly happy and grateful to be where I am. I know that, in the big picture, there will be other opportunities for travel. Right now, though, I have to take advantage of other opportunities as they present themselves.
This weekend, for example, has been one of a lot of light and a lot of love. Friday evening was the finale to a year of mentoring an incredible young woman from Lebanon. I took her to a sushi dinner, we went shopping, and ended the evening with a pile of custard to eat. What is most remarkable about my time with her is that, though she is sixteen years old, she has the wisdom and grace that most adults strive to find. I am continually astounded by her astute remarks and beliefs about life. In fact, if I were ever to have a daughter, I would hope that she would turn out to be like this girl: a beautiful and enlightened, intuitive and gracious student of the world. It moved me deep within when she expressed how much I had helped her during her year on exchange, and that my advice had had the power to tweak her perspective. All I could ever desire is having the ability to reach someone with my words. And, apparently, I had done just that. Wow, such an honor. What she maybe didn’t realize, though, was how much she had helped me during the last year. It was symbiotic really; I mentored her, and she most certainly did the same for me. And I cannot thank the universe enough for sending her into my life. I will miss her physical presence terribly, but I am tremendously grateful to have had the time to share with her and look forward to staying connected in the future.
As I went into Saturday, I was rather wary and unsure about where the day would take me. I was jointly attending my son’s preschool picnic with my ex, and time with him is truthfully never an occasion I look very much forward to. However, I was determined to spend as much time as possible getting to know the other parents and building new relationships with like-minded people. Et viola, that is exactly what I did. Though he was present and part of some of the conversations, I focused my energy on putting my best face forward, fully embracing the moments in which I could potentially make a new friend, or learn something from the other parents. It went better than I ever could have expected, and I walked away from the gathering with a sense of hope and gratitude for the exchanges that I had been able to be a part of.
Thirty minutes later, I was parallel parking in front of a cute building on a quiet street in Pilsen, Chicago. One of my best friends had recently moved into an apartment there, and I was going to see it for the first time. As the breeze sailed in through the windows of her charming and spacious apartment, we sat on the couch and talked about life and all its facets, while sipping a cold beer. I mean, honestly, does it get any better than that? An Uber ride later and we were on the North Side, pushing through the garden gate of a friend of hers to drink more beer and socialize while the sounds and smells of Division Fest provided entertainment on the other side of the fence. For the second time that day, I felt extremely welcome by the other attendees, and I was able to meet a lot of really awesome people. The motif of the day, I realized, was that meeting new people and having meaningful exchanges bring incredible value to a day, hour, or moment.
As we walked through the festival, hanging on to each other so we wouldn’t be swallowed and separated by the crowd, I found myself smiling at strangers and they smiled in return. I noticed in detail the smells from the food vendors, and picked up on tidbits of conversation as we passed by other groups of festival-goers. It was incredible to be so present in the moment.
While in the line for Döner Kebap and curry fries (where I also found Club Mate!), we mused about the quandaries presented when dating a total stranger. It was a group conversation of both men and women, and it was as funny as it was informative to trade ideas and stories about such things with others who were seeking the same things as we were: namely, food, companionship, a laugh, advice, and connection with other humans.
Back at hers, after the sun had set, we sat on the back deck and drank red wine mixed with soda. The antennae of the Willis Tower glowed in the near distance, and we continued our more private conversations from earlier in the day. It was still remarkably perfect weather, and we were able to lose track of time as we laughed, conversed, and listened to music. Though it was late and I had been up early, the powerful feeling of rejuvenation prevailed, eliminating the feeling of exhaustion that seems to be present quite often on weeknights.
Times like these show me how incredibly fortunate I am. I am very much aware that my life is nowhere near perfect, and there are many instances that cause me stress overload where I need to remind myself to take a few deep breaths in order to save the situation. However, there are also so many beautiful moments that are so full of happiness and light, that hanging on to the energy from these is powerful enough to keep me afloat during the times when I feel like the dark rabbit hole is threatening to pull me back in. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to maintain a healthy mind, other times, letting go and being effortless is all I need to do.
As time goes on, though, I make a habit of reminding myself that there are so many reasons to be happy. Even if a day sees plenty of blockers, there is at least one moment that can be flooded with happiness or gratitude. And that one, single, solitary, moment makes all the difference.
From a distance, they looked like two lovers on holiday. They breakfasted on the veranda together, held hands as they strolled along the beach, and when they looked at each other, well, then it seemed set in stone. It wasn’t just desire in their eyes; it was a deep and intense understanding and admiration of the other. It was only in the moments when they were alone, preparing themselves for bed or the start of a new day that the small elephant sat back down in the corner of the room. Marius would watch Mira combing out her hair after a shower and longed to slip the towel from its precarious position above her breasts. But he didn’t. He still wasn’t sure if that would be what she wanted, too. And she would watch him slide his body into a t-shirt and a pair of pants, admiring the musculature that vanished beneath the cloth. She liked the careful yet carefree way he tidied his hair and face each morning, and found nothing imperfect about his physique. But they both felt as if they were dancing in a dream, and at anytime, the song would end. The perfect blue of the ocean, the caressing warmth of the early spring, and the endless supply of food and drink seemed to perpetuate the illusion. The question was simple if not terribly impossible to answer: where should they go from here? Both of them felt that, at this age, they should know how to answer, and therefore both kept their lips sealed tightly shut.
“When we get back to Berlin, do you think you’ll stay?” He asked one night as they sat on the balcony. Her head rested on his chest and he held her close. She raised her head and looked back at him. “Of course you’ll travel for your writing, but will you stay, with me?” He asked, very quietly, fearing the possibilities of her response. She laid her head back down and he exhaled. “I’d be rather happy to stay with you,” she answered slowly. He waited for more but nothing else came. All that was left to fill the silence were the crashing waves washing over the nearby shore.
When they arrived back in Berlin, they stood in the living room of Marius’ apartment; Mira looked down at her phone, Marius looked at her, waiting. Finally, she looked up. “Do you think I should send my stuff up from London then?” she asked. He thought he caught an anxious look in her eyes. “I think that’s a great idea, yes,” he replied simply, hoping she would relax. She nodded once. “Right. I’ll get on with it then.”
While she telephoned with a shipping service, Marius prepared a tray of snacks complete with a bottle of sparkling Rose. He set it all gently down on the coffee table and began flicking through his work email account which had been abandoned for five days while they had been in Spain. He poured himself a glass of wine and busied himself with drinking industriously and scrolling systematically. “It’ll arrive tomorrow afternoon,” she said, bringing him back from cyber land. “That’s great news. I’ll make space in the closet for you,” he said, smiling over at her.
“Erm, yea, or I could I just, you know, stuff it all in the guest bedroom closet.”
“Mira, I’m happy to make all the space you need. Don’t you want to share space with me?”
She felt a bit ridiculous and began to blush. “I, yes, I do. I just, well. I don’t exactly fucking know how to really. It just feels so odd to…move into your flat again. Obviously it’s not the same one as before. But, still.”
“Alright. Fair enough. I understand. But, this time, we’re much older and much wiser. And hopefully you won’t leave me for the beauty of Switzerland or anywhere else.” He took her hand gently and smiled. She leaned her forehead against his, breathing deeply. He smelled wonderful. Comforting. “I can’t believe this Marius. Sometimes I still just can’t. I mean, what if it really should be Lila here all along?” she murmured, speaking to the floor.
“Mira, I didn’t leave Lila because we didn’t make a good match. We did. But I’ve loved you since I told you the first time a million years ago. After awhile I didn’t realize it anymore, but it was always there.”
She was quiet, examining the lines on the palms of her hands, before laughing a little. “I’m too old for this shit,” she commented, looking up to meet his eyes with hers. He smiled and squeezed her hand.
She took up a book and he seated himself at the piano, beginning to plunk around, tinkering with a new melody. As usual when he played, she found herself unable to concentrate on anything else but the music lofting from the mechanism that was the grand piano. She looked round the spacious room and frowned slightly. She would need to mark out a place of her own; somewhere where she could spread out and do some proper work. She couldn’t imagine sharing a workspace with Marius. In fact, it was difficult for her to get her head around the concept of sharing any type of space with anyone after so many years of solitary accommodation. But, the longer she sat, taking in the music as it filled every molecule in the room with the purest sound, she realized that there was likely no better atmosphere to share with another human. This peace, this comfort; she would remain as long as it did. For surely, she thought, this would be a wonderful soundtrack to write to everyday. Surely, indeed.
“I’m sorry Lila, I was afraid. I was just fucking afraid.” “I already know that Marius. Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I really wish I could.”
Lila snorted and shook her head, a cloud of smoke circling her head from the cigarette.
“It was a shitty thing to do. From both of you.”
“I know. Believe me, I feel just as terrible as Mira does.”
“You should.” She took another drag and flicked the ash from the end. “I already know its over Marius. So don’t think you’re going to let me down easy.”
“I’ve never thought you a fool Lila, and I didn’t come to make excuses for my behavior. I just needed to face you when I said that I am truly sorry that I hurt you. I did love you, you know. And I still do care for you very much.”
“I wish you didn’t Marius. And I wish I didn’t feel the same.”
He reached over and gave her hand a squeeze. She looked down at the floor, then slowly into his eyes.
“Take care Lila. I wish you all the very best. Wirklich.”
She nodded once, solemnly, and he stood up, his eyes lingering on the divine creature sitting there at the bistro table, blonde hair spilling across her shoulder like fresh tears on a cheek. She afforded him the curtesy of the last image being one of her completely pulled together before he turned away and wandered out of the restaurant. After that, she drank her wine in silence, thinking of nothing.
As she unlocked her bike, feeling the affects of the wine take root in her brain, her vision blurred as her conscious and sub-conscious cracked together, breaking forth in a violent storm of tears and sobs, wracking her so much that she nearly had to abandon her bike at the post where it was chained and take the walk of shame home; a one woman parade of melancholy.
Die Emotionen Von Menschen spiegeln die Laune der Natur wider. “Human emotion reflects that of nature.” Something Marius had said a long time ago, almost in another life. Looking out over the sun and surf of the Atlantic Ocean, I pondered the truth of such an expression and found it to be accurate. “Don’t tell me you keep a flat in London for the wonderful weather,” he had snorted, upon seeing the puzzlement expressed by my knitted brows after he had first said it. “Don’t you notice how dreary people’s moods are when the weather is rainy and bad?” he asked, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. In fact I did notice. But I was never actually in any one place long enough to take matters of climate and weather patterns to heart. I was still mulling over the truth of his words when he mentioned to me that he would not mind visiting England again, he would like to see my mother again. “You tick very well together,” she had said back then. That was the only phrase resembling a compliment that my mother had given me regarding any relationship I had had. Ever.
My computer lay open on the table behind me, the black screen reflecting the palm leaves spread out like a canopy above. What would I write today? How would I be able to explain myself in written words? Would I slip back in time, using nostalgia to come to grips with reality? Or, would I write an anecdote about the prawns I had eaten for lunch and leave the rest to bask in the Spanish sun? A gentle wind blew a sweep of hair across my face; a sea breeze, the winds of change for a sailor. I squinted against the sun which had already began dipping itself into the glossy, glinting depths of the endless ocean. Somewhere behind me, I heard gentle piano music float through the heavy salty air. “Mira,” the voice softly said. “Will you come?” I turned from my perch and slid into the shadows of the interior. The music had grown stronger, now with strings and guitar to accompany the piano’s notes. It told a story, and I as I listened, I realized the story was somehow familiar. “This is wonderful,” I murmured, lost in the timing, the melody, each synchronized harmony. “I wrote it for you,” he said, as softly as if the words belonged to the composition.
For the first time since I had arrived in Berlin, I wept.
“Love is a Natural Disaster.” That is what my ex-boyfriend had always said. In fact, it was the title of the collection of paintings and mixed media projects he had completed. He was not only an artist who had housed his work in my gallery for the better part of six months, but also one of the greatest egoists I had met in a long time. But I was in the mood, so I let his flair for the melodramatic take up space in my gallery, my time and emotions, and, after too much wine and too many speeches about why living with me would produce the greatest work of his career, I let him take up residence in my flat as well.
After the six-month rental contract for the gallery space expired, I asked him very cordially if he could please get the fuck out of my apartment as well. He knew it was coming. But of course, he wasn’t going to go without a soliloquy about how I was making a huge mistake and so on, during which I just continued to make myself a Käsebrot. He flourished his hands through the air as he packed his painting materials, stuffing metal and other bits of material scraps into canvas bags as he reminded me for the fortieth time how inconsiderate I was being. I wish I could’ve cared, could’ve pinched some emotion back into myself, but I had become calloused to his existence since the day he began leaving bits of his long hair in the shower drain. Egotistical is one thing, sloppy is quite another.
“Love is a Natural Disaster.” Marius disagreed with this description entirely. He quipped that it may end in disaster, but on the whole, everything happens just as it may and more as it should. He was both philosopher and realist, and I found that juxtaposition suited me very well. More importantly, he was at the helm of an ever-expanding music empire, and had little to no time for pointless Quatsch. He understood my clipped and clean way of life, and admired me for it I think. The wheels of the days turned, and we found ourselves able to co-exist in a pleasant, romantic manner. We didn’t need to argue about work, schedules, or bills. He was fine with keeping separate residences, and we both certainly made enough money to keep up a certain stamina. Of course if I’m being perfectly honest, I enjoyed the prestige of his good-looks, social graces, and appreciation for a different form of art than the one he knew so intimately. He was always gracious about my necessity to mingle and go about my business, sometimes alone, and for that I respected him more than anything else. Actually, for my standards, I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone else previously.
“Love is a Natural Disaster.” Mira chuckled a little at the imagery, but I suspected she thought it could be a fitting analogy. Ever since I had seen her at the table across from Marius that first night when she made her prodigal return to Berlin, I myself hadn’t been able to shake the notion. They looked so incredibly oblivious to the world around them, so undeniably devoted to their precious time together, that, rather than joining them at the table, I found myself observing from a remote place at the bar where I sipped a vodka tonic so I could have a moment to get my head together. I ordered a second one when, the more I watched, I realized that this was the end of our world as we had known it. There was going to be a fucking natural disaster of seismic proportions, and nothing would be standing where it had been at the end.
Because I somehow like to torture myself, I refused to immediately address my speculations with Marius. I went through each day cataloging ever glance, every smile, every fucking nuance that went between them, and then I wondered angrily why I couldn’t sleep at night. Finally, when I told Marius what I thought, he managed the audacity to brush it off. This pushed me to such a precarious edge of my sanity that I even began comparing myself to her, making mental checklists of all things I had that she didn’t and vice versa. That nonsense stopped when I threw my empty tumbler at one of the stone walls of the gallery one night after having too many pity drinks. Three centimeters to the left and I would’ve ruined one of the artist’s paintings.
I’d be fucked if this shit would ruin life as I knew it.
The next day, I invited Mira for a girl’s day. The day after, we spent the entire morning and afternoon together. During the time we went about shopping and brunching, I had managed to compartmentalize the ties that held her to Marius. Over coffee at a fairly empty cafe, the callous had grown over the wound, and I no longer felt compelled to hold back the honesty of the situation; Marius was choosing her over me, and it was time that she became confronted with this disaster.
She stared at me; I don’t know if it was out of shock or because she was scandalized by my boldness, but I couldn’t give a fuck. She tried, depressingly lamely, to tell me that they were only friends from the past. And I told her to fuck off. I didn’t even bother explaining to her that I had seen my long-term partner abandon whatever it was that he had felt for me and go running, tripping all over himself, back to the flesh embodiment of his past. With reckless abandon, I yanked the lock from my bike, swung my leg over the metal bar, and rode off, hoping to never see her sorry fucking soul ever again.
I avoided glancing at the clock as if it were something horribly grotesque. Instead, I tried to keep my eyes focused on the emails I was writing, and the datebook I had propped open on my lap that I was now updating in pencil. Still, there was no avoiding it. 00:00. It had come at last. My thirty-second birthday. Verfickte Scheisse. I scowled at the ticking clock and pushed the datebook from my lap. Crossing my arms across my chest, I folded over onto my knees and wondered why in hell anyone would want to embrace something so utterly shitty as a birthday. No, this wasn’t just because I knew I was in the process of getting dumped. I had always hated my birthday. Ok, that’s probably not true—I guess I liked it when I was small. But as soon as the teenaged years came, I avoided that shit like it was a nasty virus. One year I even forbade my friends to acknowledge it. “Let me just pay for dinner and the rest of you shut the fuck up already,” I had said sharply. I was twenty-six. They had left it at that. I looked up to the blinking black cursor against the white background and cringed. Then, because I knew I would be an absolute lost cause if I didn’t, I picked up my phone and called a friend. A half hour later, I was walking out in six-inch heels and a cocktail dress, ready to start this new year; single as fuck, and grudgingly willing to dance on it.
The morning, or afternoon I should say, of my birthday, I woke up to the sweet smell of male sweat and damp sheets. I heard the sink running from down the hall and rose to drape a loose-fitting dress over my otherwise naked body. The guy who had come home with me for casual sex ended up taking me to a non-birthday brunch, as he had called it, and ended the afternoon by telling me the Vollidiot that was dumping me really wasn’t a legitimate human being. I wished more than anything that I could agree with him. He left me with a small kiss on the cheek and his phone number scrawled on an old Aldi receipt.
I had been able to do it, and I wondered at it as well as praised myself for it. Casual sex was back on the menu. Shit, at my age, I had no time to waste. The fact is, I am a woman who does have casual sex. I see no problem with getting my fill, and since I was for all purposes single, why the fuck not? It was by no means my first kick at the ball. And I realized, after the handsome brunch partner had left, that this suited me. It could get lonely, but it suited me. Now, I just wanted Marius to face his cowardice so we could put this tragedy behind us. This fucking natural disaster.
I awoke, discombobulated and otherwise confused. Lulled to sleep by the perpetual hum of voices and airplane noises around me, I had fallen asleep before we had even pulled away from the gate. I don’t know what it is, but something about traveling by plane, and the leading up to it, brings me to such a height of boredom and exhaustion that all I can do is close my eyes and slip away. This time, I didn’t even bother with headphones; my last night in New York City had robbed me of enough sleep to make the need easy to fill. I glanced around, blinking. The woman sitting to my left certainly wasn’t the guy that had been sitting there when I had fallen asleep. I straightened up and smoothed my pants a little, placing the bowler hat onto my knee. I cleared my throat slightly, wishing for nothing more than a glass of water. I allowed myself a glance in my seat mate’s direction again and decided that I was lucky to have a pretty young woman to share the cramped quarters of the airplane with. I looked out the window, hoping to muster up something clever to say. She was reading, but fuck it, maybe she was up for talking. “You’re not the guy that was sitting her before,” I said, smiling. “No, he opted to be next to his family,” she replied, looking up. I asked her how long we had been flying; she replied about three hours. I smiled at her again. “I’m sorry, you’re reading. I didn’t mean to disturb you.” And then, she smiled at me, and I was suddenly very much wide awake.
She didn’t seem like the type of girl who needed anyone to show her around a strange city. Still, I offered, and to my luck, she called me the next morning, asking if I would spare some time for a tour. I picked her up from the five star hotel where she was staying and took her to brunch. After that, I showed her around the neighborhood where I was living. Though it wasn’t much yet, anyone could see that it would be something very soon. With her sharp eye, I realized she would not have a problem recognizing potential. I brought her to the studio. My partners eyed her with looks of approval, and threw me smirks behind her back. Luckily, her German was rudimental enough so that she did not understand their bawdy remarks. They thought she was an easy fling, and thereby the perfect woman. I thought she was the most electrifying, inspiring thing that could’ve dropped into my life at the moment, and I already was shaping her up to be my finest muse in my subconscious. I took her back to my apartment, a modest one-bedroom, and cooked her spaghetti bolognese, serving a bottle of wine costing a whole seven Euro, which happened to be the most expensive one I kept in-house. Afterwards, I served her beer from a plastic bottle, hiding this fact by pouring it into a pint glass, and we sat on the mini-balcony, talking and smoking. She spent the night in my bed, and the next morning I kissed her over coffee and croissants.
On the day she was meant to fly away from Berlin, and out of my life, we found ourselves sprawled naked on the living room rug, surrounded by wine bottles and take-away pizza boxes. After hours of much debate and many tears, we had decided that she would stay with me and we would see what we could make of this. I had been forewarned that she would continue to travel, and I had promised her I would be working long days at the studio. Both seemed like fair compromises to make. I realized I finally had a reason to come home again after work.
She had some boxes from her place in London delivered, and asked me very nicely if she could please hang some artwork on the walls. When I came home, the place had been marked with the artful touch of someone who knew how very little it took to turn a space into a home. From where I was standing, both literally and figuratively, everything looked very promising. I wouldn’t expose myself to her yet, but I knew that I was already in love with her.
If I were to dig deep enough inside myself, and rifle through the part of my memory that housed the things I refused to think of, I suppose I could conjure up the day that she left for Switzerland. All I can readily say is that the weather matched my emotions precisely; it was rainy, cold, and otherwise dour and shitty. The year preceding it had been one of long-distance video calls and lonely nights. I accused her of traveling too much, and she told me I was both working and drinking too much. All of it was true. And instead of putting things into perspective and working them out, we both chose to cling to our careers that had placed us on an upward trajectory faster than either of us could’ve anticipated. Her technological devices had become her constant companions, while I spent most of my time with strangers who handed me contracts and film manuscripts. I had become the composer I had always wanted to be, and she was by now a well-known writer. With all of that to sleep with, it seemed we no longer needed each other. And although I couldn’t actually believe how fucking stubborn I was being, I would never admit to her that I was rotting on the inside without her.
And then, she disappeared. Into the mist, into a train car, into the milieu of another country, and most certainly eventually into the arms of another man.
If I had been a workaholic before, I became a machine that required neither sleep nor food, and ran mostly on alcohol and unbridled passion for the success of my music. For months after she had gone, I couldn’t bare to be alone in the apartment. Some nights, I even slept on the couch in the studio. I was perpetuating a schedule that involved early mornings, long days, and too many drinks with my colleagues who also kept the same, single schedule as I did.
Eventually though, I slipped back into being human again, and found my apartment to be solace from the otherwise turbid world outside. Mira and I kept up no correspondence, but it was not difficult for me to keep tabs on her life. I would sometimes, rather often actually, find myself scrolling through her blog, staring in awe as pictures of her face, her body, the scenery of beautiful places rolled across the screen. I never left any trace of being there, fearing that she may have an adverse reaction should I leave a comment. Of course this was ridiculous; not only because, by that time she had millions of followers, but also because we hadn’t parted with any bad blood between us to speak of.
After too many glasses of wine one night, at least five years since I had last seen her in person, and shortly after I had moved into a newly renovated loft, I found myself glued to the large-screened computer in my office, ogling the divine perfection of her bikini-clad body as she frolicked about in photos of Sardinia, parts of me beginning to stir and rise that had no business doing so. The blood rushed to my head as I moved down the page, discovering the men with which she had spent time recently. I felt myself becoming belligerently jealous, and swiped a pile of papers angrily from my desk in one fluid flurry of rage. Fuming, I sat back in my chair and wiped my face. Chalking it up to too much wine, I shut the computer down and trudged to my bedroom, falling into a sweat-soaked sleep, and awakening feeling like I had been run down by a city street car.
Thereafter, I disallowed myself from getting involved with her online empire. I mean, at some point I needed to move on. Moving into my new place was a great start, and now I needed to keep going that direction. I was otherwise comfortably adjusted to life in my mid-thirties; I owned a considerably fashionable piece of property in the same neighborhood that I had first lived in when I came to study in Berlin almost eleven years ago. Both my business and my personal music career were thriving, and I had become a known personality on several radio stations, and a sought-after guest speaker for courses at the university. No longer forced to buy beer in plastic bottles, I now bought an assortment of German brews and imports, as well as very expensive bottles of wine to impress the guests I was hosting on a weekly basis.
Finally, I was starting to feel at home again in my own life, happy-hearted with all that I had and become.
It was at a Friday night dinner party hosted at my place where I met Lila; a lovely, if not a little brusque art galley director who had come with one of the musicians we were currently contracting with. She was thin, very tall, with minor swells to mark breasts, hips, and ass. The red dress she wore flowed loosely around her toned frame, and her blonde hair covered everything the dress did not—until she swept it into a loose ponytail after we opened the sixth bottle of Sekt post-dinner. Her cheeks had taken the rosy coloration of one who has drunk plenty of wine, and I couldn’t help but give most of my attention to her, eventually breaking away from the rest of the group for a smoke break on the balcony.
“Nice place,” she commented, gesturing to the glass windows separating us from the living room. I lit the end of her cigarette. “Thank you,” I replied, smiling.
“I can’t believe this neighborhood. It’s really made something of itself, eh?” she mused, looking out over the tops of the surrounding buildings. I nodded. She wasn’t the most easy individual to converse with, but she always, I found, knew exactly what she wanted and knew how to speak her mind, and that is what I found most desirable about her.
We eased into a relationship at about the same speed two glaciers in the Arctic move toward each other, eventually meeting in the middle with a gentle bump of acknowledgement. We saw very little of each other at first because of our incredibly opposite schedules. While I worked during the day and into the evenings, most of her events started at night, making her unavailable for dinner or even a drink somewhere. Usually I would hang around the gallery, nursing a glass of whatever the artist had chosen to serve, grabbing bits of conversation with her where I could before heading home and tucking myself in for the night. It gave us little chance to grow tired of each other, and since we didn’t live together, seeing each other remained something of a novelty.
As time went on, she came to me each night, offering me the comforts of her body, and when she didn’t, I missed her and wondered why she had chosen to go home. Occasionally, I would spend the night at her apartment one neighborhood over from mine. She lived above the gallery, and I could never figure out how she managed to ever distance herself from her work. But that was part of her bravado: compartmentalizing and effortlessly fine-tuning her attentions with precision. We went on like this for years; happy, satisfied, sometimes argumentative and out of touch, but in love enough to move through life in unison.
“I got an email from Mira,” I told Lila over a rushed breakfast one morning. She paused with stirring her tea to raise a skeptical, perfectly-crafted eyebrow at me. “Oh really? Is she coming to Berlin?” she replied, resuming her stirring. I wiped my mouth. “Yea, she is,” was all I said, waiting for the precarious silence to pass. She knew all about Mira, for Mira was a part of my life I could never keep secret. “Looking forward to meeting her,” she said, pushing back from the table. “I must go. I’m late already.” She kissed my hair briefly before flinging a scarf around her neck and slipping into her trench coat. “See you later,” she said before pulling on a pair of rain boots and heading out into the downpour. I sat in silence, mulling over the potential situations that could arise. But nothing, absolutely and most certainly nothing came to mind other than the child-like excitement that rose up every time I imagined seeing Mira again after all these years.
I felt like a canary in a cage as I waited at the restaurant designated to be our meeting spot. I was early in the hopes of snagging a good table big enough for three. I had already sipped my way through a vodka tonic, and my nerves were only slightly calmed. I noticed how I kept wiping my palms on the thigh of my jeans.
When I saw her, my brain went dead for a second, and then the banging and clanging and fireworks display of nerve synapses began. And I wondered directly thereafter if inviting Lila to join us had been a mistake. There was no time to ponder it, Mira had landed in my arms, and it felt like she had never even left them at all. “My God, you look wonderful,” I said, stepping back to admire the silhouette she presented me with in a black fitted dress as she slipped out of a red wool coat. “You look well yourself,” she replied, smiling. “The shorter hair suits you,” she added. I laughed. “Well, I’m not nearly as young as I used to be,” I said, giving her a smile. She laid her hands on the table, leaning in slightly. “Its so good to see you Marius. Thanks for meeting me.” Something in the way her mouth turned up at the corner, the crinkles near her eyes danced, and how her eyes spoke made me shift in my chair. In my pants, things we stirring as well and I cleared my throat. “You know I’m always glad to see you Mira.”
Lila arrived an hour later, joining us for after-dinner drinks. I was grateful for her treatment of Mira; I had feared she may treat her with cold detachment, but was sighing internally with relief when she slipped into the art of casual conversation with her right away. Mira was the type of person that nearly everyone could feel comfortable with. As beautiful as she was, women could not speak a word against her, out of jealousy or anything else, because she simply glowed with good-will and kindness. This, it seemed, had also put any of Lila’s concerns to rest.
I didn’t realize that I had been holding my breath for so long until I sighed a gust of wind in relief when Mira told us that she would stay in Berlin awhile. “Would you mind if I asked Mira to stay here?” I asked Lila one night as we prepared dinner. She continued her chopping of the onions. “No,” she replied simply. I studied the side of her face, looking for signs that may offer contradiction to her answer. I found none. As I went to bed that night, I was convinced that she was truly okay with it; she had never made time for go-around games in which she wouldn’t say exactly what she meant to. As I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come, I imagined what it would be like to co-habit with someone who, even after all these years, brought me the same abundance of happiness.
Things between Lila and me were silently falling apart. She knew something I didn’t; something I wouldn’t admit aloud to the question that she never asked. She fucking knew, but waited for me to confront myself with the truth: that I was in love with my past. The past who had become the present. And who I wanted to be the future as well. When Mira came back to the loft one evening after her day out with Lila, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Lila had told her off about our relationship. Not that there was anything more than a friendship. But Lila had finally had enough, and went first to Mira to accost her because of my feelings. I was still uncertain that the feelings I had were actually mutual. But I understood why Lila had decided to come clean—she feared I would never move on from the limbo I had placed myself in, would never decide to chose one over the other, and if I did choose Lila, that I would never stop loving Mira. She had outed my cowardice, and now I felt as if I were naked on stage at the opera house.
“I feel horrible about all this,” Mira said, her face just as downcast as her eyes. I started at the sound of her voice which had snapped me out of focus for the composition I had been going over. “You have no reason for that,” I replied, feeling my own sense of guilt creep slowly back in. “I dunno, I mean, if I had never come to Berlin, you guys would’ve gone on happily. I feel like I’ve absolutely desecrated the sense of peace your lives had.” She sighed and flipped the page of the magazine she had open on her lap. “That is nonsense, Mira. Maybe we would’ve stayed together, but it would have been less of a love than what I feel for you.” She looked over at me and I could tell this was really weighing on her. I moved from my chair to crouch down in front of where she was perched on the edge of the couch. “These things happen, Mira. Who fucking knows why, but its certainly not the end of the world. Its a beginning. Lila will move on. She is still beautiful and brilliant and highly desirable. There wouldn’t be a thing you or I could do to change any of that.” She maintained eye contact with me as I spoke softly to her, trying my best to give her comfort in her grief. She had been careful to avoid any physical contact with me. Only once had she let me hold her hand while we stood on the balcony and I smoked my last cigarette for the day. And once she had laid her head on my shoulder while we rested on the couch. Mostly though, she still felt as if I were not hers to touch. Not until I spoke with Lila.